Please see information about this week’s workshop below:
Workshop on the origins of the symbolic mind
Wednesday 16th November 2016
Northfield’s Campus, University of Wollongong
14:00-18:00, Research Hub (19.2072), Building 19
Dates for the first appearances of crucial technological innovations and symbolic material culture are continually being pushed back in time. This trend contradicts the theory that a mutation related to brain function caused a sudden and relatively recent cognitive revolution in our lineage. However, the alternative theory of gradual biological evolution may not fit the archaeological record, either. Traditions within populations are discontinuous in time and space, while independent populations can converge on common practices. Accordingly, there is a growing consensus that changes in the archaeological record of human behavior are better explained by changes in local conditions, such as ecology, demography, and culture.
What does this consensus tell us about the origins of symbolic cognition? Given increasingly older dates for key innovations and the shift in explanatory focus from internal biology to external factors, the mainstream argument is that cognitive modernity must be much older than previously thought. The workshop will critically evaluate the assumed identification of biological continuity with cognitive continuity. It will also consider to what extent cognitive capacities are innate and context independent, and will explore the tensions between such a nativist theory of cognition and recent developments in cognitive science, which emphasize that cognition is scaffolded, extended, and even constituted by behavioral practices. Contributions to this workshop will consider possible explanations of distinctive features of symbolic minds – explanations that may depend not only or mainly on having the right kind of biological capacities but more pivotally on transforming them via interaction with the appropriate culturally created local conditions.
This workshop brings together archaeologists and philosophers working at the University of Wollongong (UOW) to explore the implications of these developments for cognitive archaeology and for cognitive science more generally.
Alex Mackay, Senior Lecturer, ARC DECRA Fellow, Centre for Archaeological Science, UOW
Sam Lin, Lecturer, Centre for Archaeological Science, UOW
Zenobia Jacobs, Professor, ARC QEII Research Fellow, Centre for Archaeological Science, UOW
Tom Froese, Vice Chancellor’s International Scholar, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW
Daniel D. Hutto, Professor of Philosophical Psychology, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW